Businesses today expect more bang for their buck. Executives want to see value from their IT processes. That’s why the much-vaunted term “analytics” has stolen the limelight from “old school” business intelligence (BI). But it’s not about the label; it’s about what these tools can achieve, writes Sean Paine, chief operations officer of information solutions specialist, EnterpriseWorx.
Google Trends shows that local searches for the term BI dropped by 75% between 2005 and 2011 and is still on a downward curve. By contrast searches for “analytics” increased 87% between 2005 and 2011 and is still on the way up. And the term “business analytics” increased 100-fold during 2011 alone.
Nonetheless, BI is an embedded term in the SA information technology landscape, and users cannot forsake the BI ticket.
Business analytics allows businesses to extract valuable insights from their data, but it must be backed by sound data management and a full set of business intelligence capabilities. In other words, business analytics is one element of a multi-pronged approach in implementing BI.
BI has the connotation of being about transactional reporting. That has become a standard item that is expected out-of-the-box. However, the shifting sands of business demands are changing the focus of BI.
Users are adopting mobile platforms, moving to BI in the cloud and demanding better analytic capabilities. As a result, BI has become focused on advanced functionality, and has extended to include a more quantitative approach to analytics.
The “new BI” includes business analytics, encompassing data analytics, advanced analytics and predictive analytics. According to the Gartner research group, analytics is currently the top technology priority for CIO and CFOs. It’s estimated to be growing at 10%, outpacing overall IT growth, with organisations saying they want more from BI.
Analytics has always been part of BI, but initially the focus was on managing the data and getting the reporting right. Now organisations are progressing up the BI roadmap, and exploiting the analytics aspect. But users only achieve some of the benefit of analytics if they don’t get their BI house in order first by putting the data platform and underlying infrastructure in place.
Driven largely by social networks and the rise of Google, there has been an unprecedented growth in “big data”, defined by Gartner in terms of volume, velocity and variety. From a technology perspective, users have seen a revolution in storage capabilities, data warehousing and data analytics platforms such as Kognitio in the past three or four years to cope with this demand.
Users have become a more analytical society because of the consumerisation of IT technologies over the past few years. They can get analytics just by going on to Google, and they expect the same thing at the office. The move to analytics has been driven from the consumer side through social media. Now it’s being driven by business, and the IT department is playing catch-up.
Basic BI includes transactional and operational reporting. Analytics is about making connections that are not necessarily obvious. Then users can go to the next level of BI – predictive analytics and, with competitive analytics, they can also see how a business shapes up when compared with other players in the market.
Data discovery is one of the tools in the arsenal of a good analyst. It incorporates an element of playfulness and chance, and can lead to revolutionary change in a business. It’s part of developing an analytics culture. Instead of relying on gut feel, users have the ability to check out their feelings against real data, and this results in better decisions.
Businesses are seeing the benefits in terms of faster data access and the ability to gain insights from complex data.
There will be increased adoption of analytics this year as applications becomes easier to use and become ever more a part of users’ lives. Right now, BI and analytics can give companies a competitive advantage, but they too will become a business standard.
In any event, as BI guru Timo Elliott says: “The real trend this year is not the technology. It’s about helping business people make better decisions, and actually change the way companies do business…At the end of the day, nobody important cares what this stuff is called.”